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The Ransomware Attack and its Implications

Nigeria was not left out in the devastating attack on cyber world recently.

By Rabiyat Usman, Abuja

Recently the cyber world was really held spell bound for fear of the most dreaded and malicious software in the universe whichput over 200,000 targets in about 150 countries on hold or stand by.

This menace raised a lot of fear, so much so that the Nigerian Government realised the importance of having a secured network.

Just as the name implies “ransomware “is a type of malware that denies a victim access to data on their device until a “ransom” is paid. This malicious software could also issue a threat, such as deleting or destroying the data, in the event of the victim failing to make necessary payment. Sometimes referred to as Wannacryor Wannacrypt which is the latest ransomware in town.

You could simply think of a ransomware attack as kidnapping,in this case, that of data. You are made to pay to secure the release of your ‘kidnapped’ data. The ransom payments typically have a time limit and are received via anonymous payment systems such as Bitcoin.

While many people may be learning about ransomware attacks for the first time, they are not new. The first of this malware is said to have surfaced back in 1989. The crudely-implemented malicious code by Joseph Popp was known as the AIDS Trojan or PC Cyborg. Victims were required to send a $189 ransom to a post office box located in Panama!

There are several types of ransomware attacks. However, all of them will prevent you from using your computernormally, and they will all ask you to do something before you can use your computer. They can target personal computer users, whether it’s a home computer, endpoints in an enterprise network, servers used by a government agency, banks or healthcare providers.

There is no guarantee that paying the fine or doing what the ransomware tells you will give access to your personal computer or files again.

An example is lockscreen ransomware shows a full-screen message that prevents you from accessing your PC or files. It says you have to pay money (“ransom”) to get access to your personal computer again. Encryption ransomware changes your files so you can’t open them. It does this by encrypting the files.

Older versions of ransom usually claim you have done something illegal with your personal computer, and that you are being fined by a police force or government agency. These claims are false. It is a scare tactic designed to make you pay the money without telling anyone who might be able to restore your personal computer. Newer versions encrypt the files on your personal computer so you can’t access them, and then simply demand money to restore your files.

Ransomware can get on your personal computer from nearly any source that any other malware (including viruses) can come from. This includes: visiting unsafe, suspicious, or fake websites. Opening emails and email attachments from people you don’t know, or that you weren’t expecting. Clicking on malicious or bad links in emails, facebook, twitter, and other social media posts, instant messenger chats, like skype.

It can be very difficult to restore your personal computer after a ransomware attack – especially if it’s infected by encryption ransomware. That’s why the best solution to ransomware is to be safe on the Internet and with emails and online chat:

Don’t click on a link on a webpage, in an email, or in a chat message unless you absolutely trust the page or sender. If you’re ever unsure – don’t click it! Often fake emails and webpages have bad spellings, or just look unusual. Look out for strange spellings of company names (like “twittter” instead of “twitter”) or unusual spaces, symbols, or punctuation (like “face book” instead of “facebook”). Try and backup your files to help protect yourself from ransomware, the number of enterprise victims being targeted by ransomware is increasing.

The sensitive files are encrypted, and large amounts of money are demanded to restore the files. Generally, the attacker has a list of file extensions or folder locations that the ransomware will target for encryption.

Due to the encryption of the files, it can be practically impossible to reverse, engineer the encryption or “crack” the files without the original encryption key – which only theattackers will have access to. The best advice for prevention is to ensure company-confidential, sensitive, or important files are securely backed up in a remote, un-connected backup or storage facility.

Daily Asset spoke with experts in the cyber industry, they said the cyberattacks, which had been on before now, could spread to Nigeria and urged banks to get more sophisticated.

The Director-General, Delta State Innovation Hub, Chris Uwaje, said “Nigeria must build sophisticated software capability with human resource and called for the introduction of software army in the country and national software legislation that must be backed by law”.

The cyber experts warned that going by the porous nature of Nigeria’s cyberspace, voluntary or involuntary insider compromise and poor Information Technology standards, the country’s financial system might be headed for a face-off withNorth Korea’s cyber criminals. According to the findings of Daily Asset, banks have not come out to lament any loss or attack, the success of the attacks on financial institutions has always been more of insider collusion.

While the DG of NITDA said we need to fortify Nigerian cyber space more, NCC advises Telecommunications on proactive measures.

The young cyber expert who saved the NHS from hackers is working with GCHQ to head off another attack, it has been claimed. Marcus Hutchins has been credited with stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack from spreading across the globe by accidentally triggering a “kill switch”. The self-taught 22-year-old took just few hours to stop the breach, which had already spread to more than 200,000 victims – including the NHS – across 150 countries.

Already, security experts have warned that the full impact of the audacious cyberattack that crippled 200,000 computers globally might be truly felt in the days ahead as workers returned to their offices and turn back on their computers.

The virus, also known as “WannaCry” or “Wannacrypt”, according to report, is believed to be part of the United States National Security Agency hacking tools that were leaked earlier in the year.

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